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The Science of Rider Visibility

Rider visibility is a subject close to our hearts here at EB Cycling Law. Mike is an avid cyclist who had a nasty incident with a motorist who didn’t see him. Ask him to tell you about it and he will likely mention that he still is dealing with issues that are a direct result of this unpleasant mishap.

I too have been hit by someone who seemed to be looking right at me, only to find out the hard way that they weren’t. A few years ago, I began riding in more visible colors in order to stand out from the surroundings more. I used to be a black kit kind of cyclist, but realized that riding around in all black made me virtually invisible. The switch to more flamboyant colors certainly made a difference, and I noticed people seemed more aware of me on the road.

Mike and I both ride with daytime lights. I’ve written before of the benefits of riding with daytime lights. I honestly can’t say enough about the benefit of riding with a piercingly bright blinking light. Motorists not only see you, but they see you sooner. I’ve seen this translate directly into cars giving me much more room when passing. I’ve also noticed a sharp decrease in the amount of hooks I’ve been thrown.

ABCs of Awareness

Trek has partnered with a Ph. D candidate at Clemson University who studies vision science and its application to transportation safety. Together, they developed what Trek calls the ABCs of Awareness. The ABCs of this acronym stand for Always on, Biomotion, and Contrast. 

It turns out I stumbled upon two out of three of these fundamentals on my own. The adaptation of a daytime lights and more colorful kit covers the Always on and Contrast. The biomotion aspect is what I find the most fascinating though.

Biomotion = Human Movement

The biomotion aspect relies on the idea that humans have an increased perceptual sensitivity to the movement of other humans. The research supports this idea. It showed that a rider with a less intense light mounted to each ankle was significantly more conspicuous than riders with brighter lights mounted to either their helmet or their seat post. 

It’s no surprise that bright colors and daytime lights make a cyclist more visible. The biomotion bit is something worth considering for those cyclist who commute during low visibility hours. Stay safe out there, and as always, keep the rubber side down!